Maybe you are a small group leader. Six months in, you discover that some are more committed than others. A few are always engaged. One or two seem disconnected. You begin to wonder, What am I doing wrong? It’s not what I expected. Or maybe you are a Christian parent. You determine...
As I wrote before, being involved in a church community opens us up to receive some great gifts from the Lord. And while it is true that reading the Bible led me to attend church, so it is also true that attending church fueled my desire to read the Bible.
Making Scripture-reading a regular part of your day will increase your faith in Jesus Christ, and, as a result, increase your joy at church.
If you find that your only encounter with the Bible happens on one day of the week, I would encourage you to plan out time each day to examine the Scriptures and to prepare for community.
Examine the Scriptures
For they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11, NIV)
Acts 17 shows us a group of believers who would hear Paul preach to them, and then they would (“every day”) want to see it for themselves.
This might sound at first like they are being rude, stubborn, or antagonistic but the opposite is true. This verse does not say, “For they received the message with great caution” and then wanted to see if what Paul said was true.
Nor does it say: “For they received the message with great skepticism” or, “with great frustration.” That would be a very different scenario!
I have been there before. I have heard some teaching from the Bible that made me angry—I was offended by God’s truth. Frustration motivated my search into the Bible, and I found the verses that seemed to agree with me and ignored others that clearly did not.
But this is not what the verse says about Paul’s audience here. It says they “received the message with great eagerness.” It was their eagerness that led them to see God’s Truth for themselves in the Scriptures.
You might say: “Doesn’t this communicate a lack of trust in one’s pastor? Why should I examine the Scriptures if the leader of my church already did? They are the one with the experience, the degree, and the calling!”
Find the Original Source
I was an English major in college and then I went on to get a master’s degree in the same subject. Long story short—I wrote a lot of papers!
These papers required I research and then appropriately give credit to various sources. A tricky situation would arise every now and again: I’d found an article (B) quoting a passage from a previous article (A).
If I used that passage and then credited article B, I would be in error—that’s not where it really came from. It’s just where I found it.
Instead, I had to go find where the quote really came from. Who said it first? Who deserves credit for this? Going back to the original allowed me to see the original context, why the quote was first said, and learn more information surrounding it. I wanted more information—not out of disrespect for the copy, but out of respect for the original!
When it comes to biblical truth, don’t mistake the messenger with the message. Don’t mistake the second-hand source with the original. Receive the word with eagerness from your pastor on Sunday, and then go to the Scriptures to see it for yourself!
Prepare for Community
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
There are three parts to this verse that I want to highlight:
1. Unity of Mind
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind…
I previously discussed how through church God offers us the gift of unity. How does this unity come about? It has everything to do with what we submit to.
If we find our identity through submitting foremost to leaders, who come and go, rise and fall, retire and transition, then our church unity is at great risk. Paul calls out this behavior in the Corinthian church:
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Corinthians 3:4)
What then can we follow to bring us the unity God offers us in the church? The answer is his word!
When we take the time each day to submit to the word of God, then we will find great unity at church with others who do the same. For the Scriptures will never lose their truthfulness!
I want to point out, also, how 1 Peter 3:8 says believers have unity of mind. If we don’t submit ourselves to God’s word throughout our week, and trust only our own thoughts, then there will be great disunity of mind in the church.
Human leaders, as great as they can be, are not perfect. They grow, develop, err. No teaching from man is perfect and without error—only God’s word is that. Only God’s Word can accomplish unity of mind for a church.
2. A Tender Heart
…sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart…
We must have great affection for one another. This is hard for me! I know my heart. Naturally, I only care about myself. I want people to care about how my week went, but I have little to no desire to hear about someone else’s.
So, during the week leading up to church, I need to work on my heart so that I can offer others the sympathy, brotherly love, and tender heart they should expect from me as a Christian brother. I desperately need quiet time with the Lord, in prayer and in his word, to soften my heart.
3. A Humble Mind
…and a humble mind.
When I think of humility, I think of two phrases. The first is when a person says, “I’ll admit it. I’m having trouble understanding ____. Can you help me understand?”
Church is a great place to ask questions—to our leaders, to one another—but how will you know what to ask if you have not been reading? Read the Bible throughout the week and come prepared to ask questions about it at church.
The second evidence of humility is when a person says, “I know something. I have something to offer. And I do not want to keep it to myself.”
We often mistake humility for self-depreciation. We think humility means we have nothing to offer others—that we are valueless. But that is not how the Bible talks about us! The Bible says we have great value—stemming from our identity in Jesus Christ.
Humility then is recognizing we have something to offer and putting ourselves out there with it for others to evaluate. If you read your Bible daily, you surely will have something to share about our Lord Jesus Christ to others at church.
Wanting More of Christ
When we read the Bible, we are led to attend church. And when we attend church, we are led to read the Bible. What I’m really saying here is this: Discovering some of Christ leads us to want more of him!
Don’t limit Christ to one small part of your week. Pursue him all week long, and let him overflow your soul!